Hammurabi: Wikis


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Died 1750 BC middle chronology
Title King of Babylon
Term 42 years; 1792 - 1750 BC
Successor Samsuiluna
Children Samsuiluna

Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ˤAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer," from ˤAmmu, "paternal kinsman," and Rāpi, "healer"; (died c. 1750 BC) was the sixth king of Babylon from 1792 BC to 1750 middle chronology (1728 BC – 1686 BC short chronology)[1] He became the first king of the Babylonian Empire following the abdication of his father, Sin-Muballit, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms.[2] Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain his empire.

Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history. These laws were written on a stone tablet standing over eight feet tall (2.4 meters) that was found in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, Hammurabi's portrait is in many government buildings throughout the world.



Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi's ascension in c. 1792 BC and upon his death in c.1750 BC

Hammurabi was a First Dynasty king of the city-state of Babylon, and inherited the power from his father, Sin-Muballit, in c. 1792 BC.[3] Babylon was one of the many ancient city-states that dotted the Mesopotamian plain and waged war on each other for control of fertile agricultural land.[4] Though many cultures co-existed in Mesopotamia, Babylonian culture gained a degree of prominence among the literate classes throughout the Middle East.[5] The kings who came before Hammurabi had begun to consolidate rule of central Mesopotamia under Babylonian hegemony and, by the time of his reign, had conquered the city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar.[5] Thus Hammurabi ascended to the throne as the king of a minor kingdom in the midst of a complex geopolitical situation. The powerful kingdom of Eshnunna controlled the upper Tigris River while Larsa controlled the river delta. To the east lay the kingdom of Elam. To the north, Shamshi-Adad I was undertaking expansionistic wars,[6] although his untimely death would fragment his newly conquered Semitic empire.[7]

The first few decades of Hammurabi's reign were relatively peaceful. Hammurabi used his power to undertake a series of public works, including heightening the city walls for defensive purposes, and expanding the temples.[8] In c. 1701 BC, the powerful kingdom of Elam, which straddled important trade routes across the Zagros Mountains, invaded the Mesopotamian plain.[9] With allies among the plain states, Elam attacked and destroyed the empire of Eshnunna, destroying a number of cities and imposing its rule on portions of the plain for the first time.[10] In order to consolidate its position, Elam tried to start a war between Hammurabi's Babylonian kingdom and the kingdom of Larsa.[11] Hammurabi and the king of Larsa made an alliance when they discovered this duplicity and were able to crush the Elamites, although Larsa did not contribute greatly to the military effort.[11] Angered by Larsa's failure to come to his aid, Hammurabi turned on that southern power, thus gaining control of the entirety of the lower Mesopotamian plain by c. 1763 BC.[12]

As Hammurabi was assisted during the war in the south by his allies from the north, the absence of soldiers in the north led to unrest.[12] Continuing his expansion, Hammurabi turned his attention northward, quelling the unrest and soon after crushing Eshnunna.[13] Next the Babylonian armies conquered the remaining northern states, including Babylon's former ally Mari, although it is possible that the 'conquest' of Mari was a surrender without any actual conflict.[14][15][16] In just a few years, Hammurabi had succeeded in uniting all of Mesopotamia under his rule.[16] Of the major city-states in the region, only Aleppo and Qatna to the west in Syria maintained their independence.[16] However, one stele of Hammurabi has been found as far north as Diyarbekir, where he claims the title "King of the Amorites".[17]

Vast numbers of contract tablets, dated to the reigns of Hammurabi and his successors, have been discovered, as well as 55 of his own letters.[18] These letters give a glimpse into the daily trials of ruling an empire, from dealing with floods and mandating changes to a flawed calendar, to taking care of Babylon's massive herds of livestock.[19] Hammurabi died and passed the reins of the empire on to his son Samsu-Iluna in c. 1750 BC.[20]

Code of laws

The upper part of the stele of Hammurabi's code of laws

Hammurabi is best known for the promulgation of a new code of Babylonian law: the Code of Hammurabi. This was written on a stele, a large stone monument, and placed in a public place so that all could see it, although it is thought that few were literate. The stele was later plundered by the Elamites and removed to their capital, Susa; it was rediscovered there in 1901 and is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The code of Hammurabi contained 282 laws, written by scribes on 12 tablets. Unlike earlier laws, it was written in Akkadian, the daily language of Babylon, and could therefore be read by any literate person in the city.[21]

An inscription of the Code of Hammurabi

The structure of the code is very specific, with each offense receiving a specified punishment. The punishments tended to be very harsh by modern standards, with many offenses resulting in death, disfigurement, or the use of the "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth" (Lex Talionis "Law of Retaliation") philosophy. Putting the laws into writing was important in itself because it suggested that the laws were immutable and above the power of any earthly king to change.[citation needed] The code is also one of the earliest examples of the idea of presumption of innocence, and it also suggests that the accused and accuser have the opportunity to provide evidence. However, there is no provision for extenuating circumstances to alter the prescribed punishment.

A carving at the top of the stele portrays Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Shamash or possibly Marduk[22], and the preface states that Hammurabi was chosen by the gods of his people to bring the laws to them. Certain parallels have been drawn between this narrative and the laws given to Moses for the ancient Hebrews - marked differences between these two sets of law codes (as well as their methods of delivery) have also been pointed out by various authors over the years. [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] [28]

Similar codes of law were created in several nearby civilizations, including the earlier Mesopotamian examples of Ur-Nammu's code, Laws of Eshnunna, and Code of Lipit-Ishtar, and the later Hittite code of laws.[29]

Legacy and depictions

Under the rules of Hammurabi's successors, the Babylonian Empire was weakened by military pressure from the Hittites, who sacked Babylon around 1531 BC.[30] However it was the Kassites who eventually conquered Babylon and ruled Mesopotamia for 400 years, adopting parts of the Babylonian culture, including Hammurabi's code of laws.

Because of Hammurabi's reputation as a lawgiver, his depiction can be found in several U.S. government buildings. Hammurabi is one of the 23 lawgivers depicted in marble bas-reliefs in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in the United States Capitol.[31] An image of Hammurabi receiving the Code of Hammurabi from the Babylonian sun god (probably Shamash) is depicted on the frieze on the south wall of the U.S. Supreme Court building.[32]

See also


  1. ^ see Arnold 2006, p. vii. His date of birth is unknown, see for example, Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1.
  2. ^ Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X. OCLC 39762695. 
  3. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1
  4. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 1–2
  5. ^ a b Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 3
  6. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 3–4
  7. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 16
  8. ^ Arnold 2005, p. 43
  9. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 15–16
  10. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 17
  11. ^ a b Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 18
  12. ^ a b Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 31
  13. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 40–41
  14. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 54–55
  15. ^ Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 64–65
  16. ^ a b c Arnold 2005, p. 45
  17. ^ Clay, Albert Tobias (1919). The Empire of the Amorites. Yale University Press. pp. 97. 
  18. ^ Breasted 2003, p. 129
  19. ^ Breasted 2003, pp. 129–130
  20. ^ Arnold 2005, p. 42
  21. ^ Breasted 2003, p. 141
  22. ^ Jaynes, Julian (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Company Publishing. ISBN 0395207290. 
  23. ^ Barton, G.A: Archaeology and the Bible. University of Michigan Library, 2009, p.406. Barton, a former professor of Semitic languages at the University of Pennsylvania, stated that while there are similarities between the two texts, a study of the entirety of both laws "convinces the student that the laws of the Old Testament are in no essential way dependent upon the Babylonian laws." He states that "such resemblances" arose from "a similarity of antecedents and of general intellectual outlook" between the two cultures, but that "the striking differences show that there was no direct borrowing." (ibid, p.406)
  24. ^ Archer, G.L., Jr.: A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1964, 1974, p.162
  25. ^ Unger, M.F.: Archaeology and the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Co., 1954, p.156, 157
  26. ^ Free, J.P.: Archaeology and Biblical History. Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1950, 1969, p. 121
  27. ^ Sayce, A.H.: Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1904, p.72
  28. ^ McDowell, J.: The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, p.427-28. Some of the differences between the Code of Hammurabi and the Mosaic Law include: Purely religious injunctions under the Mosaic Law (Unger); laws pertaining to specific elements of society, such as tax-collectors, soldiers, and wine merchants under the Code of Hammurabi (Barton; Free); greater emphasis in the Mosiac Law on the value of human life regardless of occupation, social class, or gender (Unger); the cultural milieu and ideologies that each law is tailored towards (Archer; Unger); and lastly, a heavier emphasis/credit given in the Babylonian account - not to the divine (Shamash) - but to the human receptor (Hammurabi) for the establishing of the Law Code, whereas the Mosaic Law places heavier emphasis on God as the sole redactor and establisher of the Law, with Moses merely as the human receptor (Unger).
  29. ^ Davies, W. W. (January 2003). Codes of Hammurabi and Moses. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766131246. OCLC 227972329. 
  30. ^ DeBlois 1997, p. 19
  31. ^ "Hammurabi". Architect of the Capitol. http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/lawgivers/hammurabi.cfm. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 
  32. ^ "Courtroom Friezes". Supreme Court of the United States. http://www.supremecourtus.gov/about/north&southwalls.pdf. Retrieved 2008-05-19. 


External links

Preceded by
Kings of Babylon Succeeded by


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

An inscription of the Code of Hammurabi.

Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ˤAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer," from ˤAmmu, "paternal kinsman," and Rāpi, "healer"; c. 1810 BC – 1750 BC), was the sixth king of Babylon and the first king of the Babylonian Empire, extending Babylon's control over Mesopotamia by winning a series of wars against neighboring kingdoms. Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in recorded history.


  • Anu and Bel called by name me, Hammurabi, the exalted prince, who feared God, to bring about the rule of righteousness in the land.
    • Preface to the Code of Hammurabi (translated by Leonard William King, 1910).
  • If any one owe a debt for a loan, and a storm prostrates the grain, or the harvest fail, or the grain does not grow for lack of water; in that year he need not give his creditor any grain, he washes his debt-tablet in water and pays no rent for this year.
    • Section 48 of the Code of Hammurabi (translated by Leonard William King, 1910).
    • Alternately translated as: If a man owe a debt and Adad inundate his field and carry away the produce, or, though lack of water, grain have not grown in the field, in that year he shall not make any return of grain to the creditor, he shall alter his contract-tablet and he shall not pay the interest for that year.
  • If a man put out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.
    • Section 196 of the Code of Hammurabi (translated by Leonard William King, 1910).
    • Alternately translated as: If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye.
  • Laws of justice which Hammurabi, the wise king, established.
    • Epilogue to the Code of Hammurabi (translated by Leonard William King, 1910).


  • Hammurabi's Code cannot by any means be regarded as a faltering attempt to frame laws among a young and inexperienced people. Such a masterpiece of legislation could befit only a thriving and well-organized nation, given to agriculture and commerce, long since grown familiar with the security afforded by written deeds drawn up with all the niceties and solemnities which clever jurists could devise, and accustomed to transact no business otherwise. It is inspired throughout by an appreciation of the right and humane sentiments that make it surpass by far the stern old Roman law.
    • Charles L. Souvay, The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910), Volume VII.

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Proper noun




  1. The sixth king of Babylon.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

King of Shinar; perhaps identical with Abraham's contemporary, Amraphel, who is mentioned in Gen. xiv. 9; the sixth king in the first dynasty of Babylon. Hammurabi was the founder of the united Babylonian empire; he conquered Rim-Sin, King of Larsa and Sumer-Accad, joined the northern and southern kingdoms, and thus established the Babylonian empire, with its capital at Babylon. It is supposed to have been Hammurabi who laid the foundations of Babylon's prosperity, and made it the first city of the Orient, a position which it maintained until the time of the Seleucids. The direct traces of the connection between this first dynasty of Babylon and the West are still scanty. An inscription on a stone slab seems to represent Hammurabi in the capacity of "King of Amurru."


His Reign.

Hammurabi ruled from 2267 to 2213 [2394-2339, Oppert]. His father and predecessor was Sin-muballit. The later Babylonians regarded Hammurabi's period as the golden age of the Babylonian empire. After conquering the south Hammurabi improved its economic conditions. In the preceding period the canals, the efficient condition of which was essential to the cultivation of the land, had probably been very much neglected. Hammurabi endeavored to restore to the land its former fruitfulness by building a new canal, which he named "Hammurabi Is the Blessing of the People." Other accounts in his inscriptions record his building operations in connection with the most important sanctuaries of the land. Thus he continued the work, already begun by his predecessor Rim-Sin, on the temple of Ishtar at Zarilab in southern Babylonia; he "made rich" the city of Ur, the home of Abraham; rebuilt the sun-temples at Larsa and Sippar; and beautified and enlarged the temples of Babylon (E-sagila) and Borsippa (E-zida). Hammurabi died after an unusually long reign (fifty-five years), and left the newly founded Babylonian empire, firmly established and unified, to his son Samsuiluna (2209-2180 [2339-2304, Oppert]). The latter's policy, like that of his successors, seems to have been the same as Hammurabi's.

Hammurabi's Code.

The most important of all the Hammurabi inscriptions is without doubt that found at Susa, containing his code of laws. This inscription was brought to light on the acropolis of Susa by J. de Morgan, at the head of a French archeological expedition, as a result of excavations carried on in December and January, 1901-02. The laws are inscribed in forty-four lines on a block of black diorite 2.25 meters in height, and constitute the most valuable known monument of Babylonian culture, the oldest document of the kind in the history of human progress. A bas-relief on the monument shows the king in a devout attitude before the sun-god Samas, who, seated, instructs him in the law. The god wears a crown, while in his right hand he holds a style and a circular object of symbolic import. This monument stood originally in the sun-temple of Ebabarra at Sippar. Thence it was carried to Susaby the Elamite conqueror Shutruk-Naḥḥunte in 1100 B.C. From a statement in the inscription it appears that a duplicate of the stone codex was erected in the temple of E-sagila at Babylon. Fragments of a second copy have been found in Susa itself. Four fragments of a copy in clay made for Assurbanipal's library are preserved in the British Museum. The code is a collection of decrees, which, however, do not constitute a legal system as generally understood. Private and criminal law are not separated. The transitions are arbitrary and lack any logical principle of succession. Paragraphs 128-194 are especially noticeable, containing regulations concerning marriage, family possessions, inheritance, and adopted children.

The picture of civilization which these laws unroll compels a change in the traditional ideas of the ancient Orient. A large number of regulations show a wholly unsuspected degree of culture. Manual labor, architecture, ship-building, commerce, and agriculture form the subject-matter of the code. There was a decided advance over the Bedouin civilization, since the Babylonians were under the protection of a prince who was like a father to his subjects. Only the slave seems to have been excluded from this protection; he was regarded as a chattel, as in Mosaic law, but with the difference that the "'ebed" in Israel was protected by the law against inhuman treatment (Ex. xxi. 20), whereas the slave in Babylonia, according to paragraph 282, was exposed to pitiless barbarity. The degrees of the social scale are not shown very clearly. The ranks of priest, king, free-born, and freedman were distinguished, as well as the class of slaves. Artisans belonged to the lower classes; even the physician was reckoned among them. Like them, he received a "wage"; whereas the architect, like the artist, received a "fee" ("kistu"). Paragraphs 198-214 contain the penal code; a free-born man was about equivalent to two freedmen, and a freedman to about two slaves.

Parallels with Mosaic Code.

The laws concerning marriage and inheritance, property and punishments, show much similarity to the regulations of the Torah. Genesis xvi. 3 and xxx. 3, where the relation of Sarah to Hagar, and of Rachel to Bilhah, is spoken of, have light thrown upon them by paragraph 145 of Hammurabi's code: "If a man takes a wife and she bears him children and he desires to take a concubine—if he takes the concubine into his house, this concubine shall not be equal to the wife." In Lev. xx. 10 and Deut. xxii. 22 it is decreed that in case of adultery on the part of a wife both parties to the guilt shall be put to death; paragraph 129 of Hammurabi's code corresponds to this: "If any man's wife is found lying with another man, they shall both be bound and thrown into the water." Exactly the same law is found in Deut. xxii. 25-26 as in the code, paragraph 130: "If any one forces the betrothed of another, who has not yet known a man and is still living in her father's house—if he is found lying with her, he shall be put to death, but the, woman shall be guiltless." An accusation brought against a woman by her husband is decided by appealing to God's judgment: the "jealousy offering" in Num. v. 11-31 is a parallel. Paragraphs 7 and 122 treat of the business of depositing goods (comp. Ex. xxii. 6-7); paragraph 176 assures to the public steward the right of holding property (comp. Gen. xv. 2; II Sam. ix. 2, 9, 10). Paragraph 117 sheds light on II Kings iv. 1; Isa. xxvii. 2, l. 1; it shows that bondage for debt, which could be made to include the whole family, terminated in the fourth year, as against the seventh according to Mosaic law (comp. Ex. xxi. 2).

The "Lex Talionis."

The lex talionis, indicated in Ex. xxi. 23-25; Deut. xix. 21; Lev. xxiv. 19, is also met with in the code, in fifteen places. But as in the Mosaic law (Ex. xxi. 26, 29-32; Lev. xxiv. 18; Num. xxxv. 31) the retaliatory punishment may be commuted by substitution or by a monetary satisfaction, so also in the code of Hammurabi, which distinguishes many cases in which a payment proportionate to the injury committed may be exacted. There is another class of punishments, found also in old Egyptian law, which falls under the law of retaliation: "If a physician wounds a man severely with the operating-knife and kills him, or if he opens a tumor with the operating-knife and the eye is injured, one shallchop off his hands" (§ 218). A similar fate befell the unskilful tattooer, according to paragraph 226. The code classes the casting of spells (§§ 1 and 2) as an offense against religion. The same verb, "abâru," appears in Deut. xviii. 11 as in paragraph 157, and with a like meaning: "If any one lies with his mother after his father, they shall both be burned," a decree which recalls Lev. xx. 11. Bearing false witness knowingly was punished with death, according to §§ 3 and 11 (comp. Deut. xix. 16-21). Revenge, or private enforcement of justice, was allowed in cases of burglary and stealing if (§§ 22, 26) the evil-doer was taken in flagrante delicto: Ex. xxii. 2 has a similar regulation. The principle that a man is responsible for damage caused by his carelessness is clearly brought out in the code. Among others belonging to this class of regulations is paragraph 229, to which Deut. xxii. 8 is comparable.

There is a parallel between paragraphs 251-252 of the code and Ex. xxi. 29-32, as regards the fine which the owner of vicious oxen must pay in the event of an accident if he has not taken proper precautions. If an animal is torn to pieces in the field by a wild beast, the shepherd is not responsible, according to paragraph 244 of the code (comp. Ex. xxii. 12). As in Ex. xxi. 28 the owner of an animal that gores is not liable to confinement on account of injury caused by his animal, so also in the code (§ 250). The "elders" are named with the judges as officers of the law, just as in Deut. xix. 12 the "ziḳne 'ir" appear as criminal magistrates. Bribing the judge was forbidden. An oath of purgation was accepted as proof in Ex. xxii. 7, 10-11: the same conception is met with in various places in the code. The Book of the Covenant makes a distinction in Ex. xxi. 13 between actions with and without intent: so does the code (§ 206). According to Ex. xxi. 22 the fine to be paid for injuring a pregnant woman was fixed by the husband; according to paragraph 209 of Hammurabi's code the fine was ten shekels. The law in Ex. xxi. 26 gives freedom to a slave whose eye is destroyed by his master: the code gives the slave the half of his value (§ 199).

Mode of Composition.

The fact that these laws are not arranged in logical classifications gives ground for the supposition that Hammurabi's code originated in a collection of important decisions. It contains, therefore, only typical cases from legal practise. Hence one seeks in vain in this code of Hammurabi for norms in the juridical sense which has attached to the term since Binding ("Handbuch des Strafrechts," i. 159); it does not contain pure commands of the lawgiver, like the Ten Commandments, "where the commands are given in a short and imperative form." However uncertain the interpretation, there is no manner of doubt that the Torah excels Hammurabi's code from an ethical-religious standpoint.

Superiority of Mosaic Code.

The code, indeed, contains humane regulations, such as those clauses which treat of freeing a captive; which excuse a man from the payment of his taxes where the harvest has failed; which protect one in bondage for debt against ill treatment; which limit the right to dispose of goods given in security for debt. But the humanity of these provisions is outweighed by regulations such as those dealing with the legally organized system of prostitution (§§ 178-180), or with the conditions in the wine-shop in which evil people assembled (§ 109), and by the typical cases mentioned of outrageous cruelty toward animals (§§ 246-248), all which clauses evidence a low plane of morality.

A law such as Ex. xx. 17; Deut. v. 21, "thou shalt not covet" (which the Decalogue, with a perception of the fact that covetousness is the root of all law-breaking, places above all other earthly laws), is not to be found anywhere in the code. Hence it follows that the code does not recognize the law of neighborly love, since self-restraint is wholly foreign to it. The institutions of the Torah which protect those who are weak economically, which set bounds to the unlimited growth of wealth, and which care for the poor are peculiar to itself. The law of love to one's neighbor (Ex. xxiii. 4 et seq.), which takes account of the stranger and even of the enemy, is nowhere discernible in Hammurabi's code. The law of retaliation, of cold, calculating equity, "as thou to me so I to thee"; the revenge of the stronger on the weaker—these form a broad foundation on which the love of one's neighbor finds no place.

Hammurabi's service to religion consisted chiefly in the fact that he opposed the use of spells and enchantments. A similar advance in this direction had already been made by King Gudea. The discovery of Hammurabi's code completely disproves one of the chief hypotheses of the Wellhausen school, that a codification on the part of the Hebrews was impossible before the ninth century.

Bibliography: V. Scheil, Délégation en Perse, Mémoires Publiés sous la Direction, de M. J. de Morgan, Délégué Général, vol. iv.; Textes Elamites-Sémitiques, 2d series, Paris, 1902; H. Winckler, Die Gesetze Hammurabis, Königs von, Babylon, in Der Alte Orient, vol. iv., part 4, Leipsic, 1902 (2d ed., 1903); Schrader, K. A. T. vol. i., Berlin, 1902; L. W. King, The Letters and Inscriptions of Hammurabi, London, 1898-1900; M. Montgomery, Briefe aus Hammurabis Zeit, Berlin, 1901; C. H. W. Johns, The Oldest Code of Laws in the World, Promulgated by Hammurabi, Edinburgh, 1903; The Independent (New York), Jan., 1903; J. Jeremias, Moses und Hammurabi, Leipsic, 1903; G. Cohn, Die Gesetze Hammurabis, Zurich, 1903; Winckler, Gesch. Israels; Friedrich Delitzsch, Babel und Bibel, pp. 21 et seq., Leipsic, 1903; Kohler, in Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft, vol. vii.; R. Dareste, in Nouvelle Revue Historique de Droit Français et Etranger, vol. xxvii.; S. Oettli, Das Gesetz Hammurabis und die Thora Israels. Leipsic, 1903; Schwersahl, Das Aelteste Gesetzbuch der Welt, in Deutsche Juristenzeitung, March 1, 1903; Grimme, Das Gesetz Chammurabis und Moses, Cologne, 1903; Lagrange, in Revue Biblique, 1903; C. F. Lehmann. Babyloniens Kulturmission Einst und Jetzt, pp. 43 et seq., Leipsic, 1903; G. Cohn, Die Gesetze Hammurabis, Zurich, 1903.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

Simple English

File:Milkau Oberer Teil der Stele mit dem Text von Hammurapis Gesetzescode
The upper part of the stele of Hammurabi's code of laws, which shows Hammurabi receiving the laws from the god Marduk or Shamash [1]

Hammurabi (Akkadian from Amorite ˤAmmurāpi, meaning "the kinsman is a healer," from ˤAmmu, meaning "paternal kinsman", and Rāpi, meaning "healer") (died 1750 BCE), was the sixth king of Babylon from 1792 BC to 1750 BC.[2] He became king after his father abdicated, and was the first ruler of Babylonia. By winning wars against other kingdoms in Mesopotamia, Hammurabi created a large Babylonian empire.[3] However, his son Samsu-iluna and later Babylonian rulers lost much of the land he had gained.[4] Hammurabi is most famous for his laws, which are known as the Hammurabi's Code. Hammurabi's Code was one of the first written codes of law in history.[5]



File:Hammurabi's Babylonia
Map showing the land owned by Babylon when Hammurabi became king c. 1792 BC (red), and when he died c. 1750 BC (orange)

Hammurabi became king of Babylon in around 1792 BC, when his father Sin-Muballit abdicated.[6] Babylon was one of many small independent cities in ancient Mesopotamia.[7] These cities often fought each other for control of land. Babylon was already one of the more powerful cities when Hammurabi became king. Earlier kings of Babylon had taken over the nearby city-states of Borsippa, Kish, and Sippar.[8]

Hammurabi did not fight any important wars in the early part of his reign. He instead improved the buildings of Babylon. He built taller city walls to make the city more difficult to attack, and expanded the temples.[9] In around 1771 BC, the kingdom of Elam attacked Mesopotamia from the east. [10] Elam invaded Eshnunna, a city-state to the north-east of Babylon, and destroyed its cities. [11] It also tried to start a war between Babylon and Larsa, a city in southern Mesopotamia. However, Hammurabi instead made an alliance with Larsa against Elam. [12] Hammurabai defeated Elam, but felt that Larsa had not given him enough help. He therefore attacked Larsa. Babylon had entirely conquered southern Mesopotamia by c. 1763 BC.[13]

Hammurabi's allies in northern Mesopotamia had sent their armies to the south to help Babylon. This caused unrest in the northern area.[13] Hammurabi therefore returned north, stopping the unrest, and defeating Eshnunna. [14] He then attacked and conquered the remaining cities in northern Mesopotamia, including Babylon's former ally Mari. It is possible that Mari surrendered to Babylon without any fighting happening.[15][16] After this, Hammurabi was in control of most of Mesopotamia. Only Aleppo and Qatna, two western cities in modern Syria remained independent.[17] When Hammurabi died in c. 1750 BC, his son Samsu-iluna became king.[18]


  • Arnold, Bill T. (2005). Who Were the Babylonians? Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-13071-3
  • Breasted, James Henry (2003). Ancient Time or a History of the Early World, Part 1. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0-7661-4946-3
  • DeBlois, Lukas (1997). An Introduction to the Ancient World. Routledge Publishing. ISBN 0-415-12773-4
  • Van De Mieroop, Marc (2005). King Hammurabi of Babylon: A Biography. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-2660-4
  • Babylonian Law. Britannica, 1911.


  1. Jaynes, Julian (1976). The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Houghton Mifflin Company Publishing. ISBN 0395207290. 
  2. Arnold 2006, p. vii. Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1. His date of birth is unknown.
  3. Beck, Roger B.; Linda Black, Larry S. Krieger, Phillip C. Naylor, Dahia Ibo Shabaka, (1999). World History: Patterns of Interaction. Evanston, IL: McDougal Littell. ISBN 0-395-87274-X. OCLC 39762695. 
  4. DeBlois 1997, p. 19
  5. http://www.commonlaw.com/Hammurabi.html Code of Hammurabia C. H. W. Johns
  6. Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 1
  7. Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 1–2
  8. Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 3
  9. Arnold 2005, p. 43
  10. Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 15–16
  11. Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 17
  12. Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 18
  13. 13.0 13.1 Van De Mieroop 2005, p. 31
  14. Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 40–41
  15. Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 54–55
  16. Van De Mieroop 2005, pp. 64–65
  17. Arnold 2005, p. 45
  18. Arnold 2005, p. 42

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